Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Taiwan Travelogue: Zhishan Garden

Just a stone's throw away from the National Palace Museum of Taipei is a charming classical garden, Zhishan Garden (至善園).
The ticket stubs from the entrance to the National Palace Museum grants free admission to this garden, which is accessible through a small path from the walkway to the museum.

Taking a walk in the garden makes one feel as though they have been momentarily transported out of Taiwan in an out-of-body experience and ended up in one of those ancient gardens in China; with the tranquility that beckons from beyond the fish ponds, pavilions, and willowy trees which sway in the wind pieced together as a panoramic masterpiece of art before one's very eyes.
(If you have been to China, or any Chinese-themed garden, you'd know what it means).

I had been expecting a quick walk around the garden; thinking that this would be yet another typical Chinese garden, but I was quickly filled with a euphoric sense of relaxation and curiosity to enjoy a little more of the garden's beauty before concluding that this is just, as I have thought, another garden.
I was not disappointed, for the garden; with its land coverage of an approximation of 1.88 acres, was filled with captivating Chinese inspired architectural landscapes and it is no surprise that the garden was designed after the renowned structural styles introduced back in the Song and Ming dynasties in China.

The grounds will take more than an hour or two to explore and to appreciate; and unless you are a local, you will not have the luxury of time and leisure to take in each and every tree in the garden. However, that does not mean you will not be able to enjoy it with a quick round of exploring as the garden's directory provides a clear guidance on the recommended attractions to look out for, at a glance.

The following are the key landmarks to look out for in Zhishan Garden:-

1. Grand entrance

2. Pine Wind Pavilion

3. West Bridge Pavilion

4.  Dragon Pond (near to Pine Wind Pavilion)

5. Brush Washing Pond
(near to West Bridge Pavilion)

6. The Cage-changing Goose; by Master Calligrapher Wang His Chih

7. The Winding Canal

8. The Orchid Pavilion

The key attractions are strategically located across each other; forming the complete landscaping of the garden and one can enjoy a stroll in the morning or the evening; accompanied by the breezy wind (especially in the winter months) blowing against your cheek, and feeling that zen-like peace calming the nerves in your system.

It is interesting that this beautiful garden was a transformation from what was once an ammunition depot of the Military Intelligence Bureau of Taiwan; and governed by the Ministry of National Defence who later made the decision to relieve the land of its military duties (probably relocation) in 2002. Renovation and architectural design works followed soon after; transforming what was probably filled with old war-like buildings and barracks into a cultural and ecological wonder which was then officially opened to public; and formally introduced as the Zhishan Cultural and Ecological Garden, in Taipei.
It is not surprising to see that the design of the garden was injected with the bits and pieces of Chinese inspirations; with the focus on feng shui, Chinese-themed architecture and incorporating the themes of folklore into the making of this enchanting garden.

Even the trash bins are designed to resemble an ancient Chinese bottle

A stroll in the garden, though a sidetrack/detour from the National Palace Museum left a memorable impression and nature always does it best, to calm the rush from a full-itinerary typical kind of traveling day~

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